• The Catalan National Assembly wants the region to declare independence from Spain by 23 April next year (Photo: Paco Riviere)

Spanish parliament rejects Catalan independence bid

09.04.14 @ 09:27

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Spain’s parliament on Tuesday (8 April) overwhelmingly rejected Catalonia’s bid to call for a referendum on independence.

There were 299 votes against a proposal by Catalan leader Artur Mas to have an independence poll. Only 47 MPs from the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties voted in favour of the petition. One MP abstained.

Centre-right Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the deputies before the vote that he could not “conceive of Spain without Catalonia nor of Catalonia outside of Spain and Europe.”

Spain's governing centre-right Partido Popular and the socialist opposition party have argued the referendum would breach the country'S 1978 constitution.

Rajoy says polls on sovereignty must be held nationally, a position backed Spain's constitutional court.

The court last month ruled a change in the constitution would be required for the unilateral poll to take place.

But Mas after the parliament vote said his regional government would anyway go ahead with the referendum, set for early November, reports the BBC.

“Some would like to present this as the end of the matter but, as president of Catalonia, I say to them that it is not the end,” he said.

Polls suggest around half of Catalans are in favour of independence.

The region, which accounts for more than 20 percent of Spain's GDP, wants greater control over its own economy, social services, and politics.

Snap elections in Catalonia last November saw separatist politicians take some two-thirds of the 135 seats in the Catalan parliament.

The parliament in December said the referendum would ask voters if they want Catalonia to be a state or an independent state.

Pro-separatist defenders say the north-eastern region has the legal right to organise a referendum after Spain’s parliament granted it an autonomy statute in 2006.

“From this painful 'no', the Catalan institutions will seek to build legal frameworks, and there are several, allowing for this November 9 ballot to take place,” said Mas, reports the AFP.

The European Commission, for its part, says an independent Catalonia would have to reapply to become a member of the European Union.